NHS England plans to trial referrals to community pharmacy from emergency departments and urgent treatment centres through the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) this winter, it has said.
This is the latest expansion of the CPCS, which first launched in October 2019 as a referral service between NHS 111 and community pharmacy, and later included referrals from GP practices from November 2020.
The service was designed in part to transfer more clinical services into community pharmacy. However, pharmacy leaders said previously that referrals from NHS 111 were lower than expected, while take-up of the GP referral service was hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a speech given by Ed Waller, director of personalised care at NHS England and NHS Improvement, at The Pharmacy Show on 18 October 2021, a presentation slide outlined future pilots that would be funded by the pharmacy integration fund.
This included a ‘CPCS emergency department and urgent treatment centre referrals’ pilot, which the slide said was expected to start in October 2021.
NHS England would not confirm the October start date but told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the pilot will start this winter.
The presentation also said the focus of the pilot “is on the process of referral that emergency departments and urgent treatment centres can adopt to send patient data through secure electronic messaging and to create the appropriate government framework for the pathway”.
“This pilot aligns with the [urgent and emergency care] plans for supporting recovery and A&E clinical pathway streaming,” the slide said.
In August 2021, the government said that work was “underway to develop the CPCS referral routes from emergency departments and urgent treatment centres”, when it announced its annual funding deal with pharmacy negotiators.
The slide also said that NHS England expects to add depression as a treatment condition to the new medicines service from February 2022.
Anne Joshua, head of pharmacy integration at NHS England, had previously said that the national body was considering this addition to the service.
However, the slide from Waller’s presentation said that the addition of depression “will be piloted adapting the model to accommodate patient need appropriate to antidepressant therapy”.
The expansion of the CPCS follows the national roll out of GP referrals through the service in November 2020.
On 17 October 2021, also speaking at The Pharmacy Show, Joshua said that 989 GP practices had signed up to provide the service as of 11 October 2021, referring to 2,593 pharmacies.
She added that 90% of the referrals sent by GPs were closed by the pharmacist.
However, as part of the £250m winter access fund, all GPs will be encouraged to sign up to refer patients via the CPCS by 1 December 2021.